How do Airsoft Guns Work: The Mechanism of Spring, Electric and Gas Airsoft Guns

Posted by Hannah Baker on 3/14/2019

You must have heard a great deal about Airsoft guns and there is a good amount of chance that you might have used one type or the other of airsoft guns. But do you know how airsoft guns work? Just go a little down the memory lane and recall when the time when you used to play with toys and plastic guns. 

Those plastic guns are the most common and cheapest types of airsoft guns with which we used to play cops and robbers or would irritate or tease someone by shooting them with those small plastic BBs. But airsoft guns are not limited to those plastic versions only. 

Nowadays, many different types and designs of these guns are available in stores. Some of them feature plastic construction and some of them feature metal construction. Some airsoft guns are even a combination of plastic and metal construction. Then, when it comes to types, there are generally three types of airsoft guns.


  • Electric Powered Airsoft Guns
  • Gas Powered Airsoft Guns
  • Spring Powered Airsoft Guns

How do Airsoft Guns Work?

Airsoft guns come in many different types, each of them having a different working mechanism, however, the basics of all types of airsoft guns are the same. Airsoft guns are those airguns which shoot plastic BBs generally around 6mm. 

cheap airsoft guns

They are the replicas of the real guns and are mostly used for target shooting, playing airsoft or for military simulation. Airsoft guns make use of compressions to fire off BBs from the barrel. Now the types of compressions are different in all types of airsoft guns. 

But before, we move onto this, let us have a look at the features or parts of an airsoft gun and the different modes in which they come in because they also affect the mechanism of a gun.


Features of an Airsoft Gun

Airsoft guns come with some features or characteristics that are present in some guns while absent in the other ones. Let us have a look at these features.


1- Full and Semi-Automatic Mode

Fully automatic guns are those which continue to fire BBs until and unless you pull your hand off the trigger whereas semi-automatic guns are those which only shoot 1 BB at one trigger pull. 


Therefore, it is clear now that semi-automatic airsoft guns are those which prevent the contacts of the gun from engaging with the motor after one pull of the trigger. The fully automatic airsoft guns are also known as machine guns and they are the most advanced and complex types of airsoft guns, also being the most realistic among all. 


The feature of full automation is only available in electric powered airsoft guns and gas powered airsoft guns and not available in spring airsoft guns as you have to cock them every time you want to shoot from them. 


The simple definition of fully automatic guns, as we discussed above, is that they keep on shooting as long as you run out of BBs or your pull your hand off the trigger. On the other hand, in semi-automatic mode, in order to fire the next round, one must pull the trigger again.


2- Blowback and Non-Blowback Mode

The Blowback feature gives a more realistic touch to the gun as it makes the gun to recoil which goes well with the “Action and Reaction” phenomenon of Physics and looks realistic as well. 


However, in the non-blowback feature, the gun does not recoil which does not look realistic but it has its cons as well. 


For example, the performance of a non-blowback gun is better than a blowback one because it saves the air and uses it fully on providing momentum to the projectile, unlike a blowback gun which uses part of this air to produce the “recoil” effect.


Guns having blowback feature are also expensive than the non-blow back ones because they have more moving parts and are more complex. The non-blowback guns are easy to use, maintain and they are silent as well. However, a blow-back gun produces a sound even though a small one because of the recoil it produces. 


It all comes down to one point, whether you prefer fanciness or effectiveness, a blowback gun is fancier because it looks realistic, however, a non-blowback one performs well and is more effective.


3- Single Action and Double Action Mode

In single action mode, you have to cock the hammer every time you pull the trigger to shoot. However, in double action mode, you only cock the hammer once and the next time when you pull the trigger, the hammer will be automatically cocked. 


In single action, the hammer is dropped whenever you shoot and this why you have to cock it every time you want to shoot, hower, in double action, you only cock the hammer once and it stays in place and you don’t have to cock it again. 


This is also the reason that guns having double action mode perform faster shots than single action ones but they also have a longer trigger pull. Single action gun may have shorter trigger pull but the time between consecutive shots is longer as compared to that of double action guns.


4- Hop Up Feature

Hop up Feature provides a back-spin to the projectiles to increase their range. Are you wondering how that happens? 


It all happens with the Magnus effect which says that when the backspin is provided to the BB when it hits the silicon bucking embedded inside the barrel of the gun, the air pressure on the top side of the BB is reduced which increases the range of the plastic projectile without changing its velocity. 


The Magnus effect says that the BB gets an effective increase in its range because, after the backspin, the BB starts throwing air in the downwards direction and towards its rear side providing the lift and increasing its range as well.


Working Mechanism of Airsoft Guns

If you are an airsoft player or an airsoft Sniper rifle enthusiast, then you would know more about the types of airsoft guns and their mechanisms than anybody else. 


However, if you are the one who knows nothing about guns but wish to learn more about airsoft guns, then we bring you the guide to most basic types of airsoft guns and their mechanisms.


1- Mechanism of Electric Powered Airsoft Guns

Electric Powered Airsoft guns are those which operate via batteries. They are by far the most common and realistic looking airsoft guns and are used by expert players mostly. These guns come in semi-automatic firing modes and as full automatic modes as well. 


As they require the use of batteries to operate, therefore, you must keep spare batteries with you for emergency scenarios. Now, let us have a look at how electric powered airsoft guns actually work. 


These guns have a small motor inside of them which is connected to the battery. This motor has three gear sprockets made up of plastic which compress the bolt when you cock the gun and push it up against the spring.


The holder pulls the trigger of the gun when the bolt is fully compressed against this spring making the trigger to send a signal to the plastic gears which in turn make the spring to allow the bolt move forward and in a fast manner. 


The air starts to accumulate between the projectile and the bolt of the gun which results in huge air pressure behind the projectile when the bolt is released. This makes the projectile to slide through the barrel and off into the air. 


This is the basic mechanism of electric powered airsoft guns which is subject to change a little with the change of modes i.e. the semi-automatic mode, fully automatic mode, hop up functions, single action mode, double action mode etc.


2- Mechanism of Gas Powered Airsoft Guns

Gas powered CO2 airsoft guns are those which operate via a spring mechanism. They make use of gas tanks to provide momentum to the projectile which forces the BB to slide through the barrel and fire off into the air. There are no batteries in these types of guns as they have gas cartridges instead of batteries in them. 


Gas powered airsoft guns make use of CO2 also known as red gas, propane also known as green gas or black gas. 


You can use the cartridges of any one of these gases but some guns only use a specific type of gas so make sure to read the manual before you buy a gas cartridge for your airsoft gun. Some guns also come with sample gas cartridges to get you started which prove to be more convenient of course.


The gas cylinders are attached on a section that is made inside the magazine of the airsoft gun. The basic concept is that the gas cylinder releases some amount of compressed CO2 whenever the trigger is pulled. This gas provides momentum to the BB and propels it out into the air. 


Let us now have a closer look at the working mechanism of these guns. Their mechanism also resembles that of a real gun but of course, these guns are powered by gas and make use of plastic BBs. 


When the trigger of a gas powered airsoft gun is pulled, the pressure nozzle of the gun makes the compressed gas to be released from the gas cartridge and the BB to be released into the barrel into the air. 


The flow of gas through the barrel provides momentum to the projectile in the barrel and causes it to fire off into the air. If the gun comes with a blowback feature, then some of this air is also used to produce a recoil.


3- Mechanism of Spring Powered Airsoft Guns

Spring Powered Airsoft Guns are those which only operate via spring mechanism and do not make use of any kind of batteries or gas cylinders. These guns are easy to use and even the kid use them. They are easy to maintain as well as they do no make use of batteries and gas cartridges but they look less realistic. 


Do you know its reason? The reason is that spring powered airsoft guns need to be cocked every time you want to shoot from them and this mechanism gives an unrealistic look to these guns. Due to this very reason, spring powered airsoft guns do not have a fully automatic mode and they only make use of semi-automatic mode.


The spring in a spring powered airsoft gun is compressed by a lever. This spring is released when the trigger is pulled, consequently driving the plunger in the forward direction. Compressed air is then passed through the barrel due to the push of this plunger which ultimately drives the projectile forward and out of the gun’s barrel. 


These guns are usually cheaper than the other types of airsoft guns but some of these guns especially spring powered airsoft snipers and rifles are expensive because they feature good FPS which is the projectile velocity of the gun.

Airsoft guns come in many different types and designs and we have covered their most important features and basic mechanism. You have a huge variety of airsoft guns available to you in stores all over the world from which you can choose according to your need and preference.

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